One of the wolves running free in the Kempen area of Flanders, named Billy, was hit by a local Belbus in an accident on Friday morning, but survived and was later spotted, apparently uninjured.
The news comes from the non-profit Landschap, which is behind the programme in support of returning wolves to nature in the national park area. Earlier reports had confirmed that Billy had been struck, but could give no news on his condition.
The Belbus is a minibus service from Flemish public transport authority De Lijn which covers remote areas where there is no regular bus service. Customers can call and arrange to be picked up.
“Billy was crossing the ring [R13] to the wide central reservation, and decided that the other side (Turnhout centre) is not a favourable place for a wolf. As he returned he was hit by a van that fortunately had already slowed down when the driver saw the wolf,” said a spokesperson for Landschap vzw.
The animal was thrown some distance against a hedge by the impact, but appeared to survive the blow and walk away.
Agents of the Institute for Nature and Forest Research attended the scene and took hair and DNA samples from the bumper of the minibus.
“We were greatly relieved when two reports came in late on Friday evening of an apparently healthy wolf in the region of Turnhout. The two reports are perfectly in line with each other in terms of location and time frame. Both observers report a smooth-running wolf. It looks like the animal got off with a fright, although of course there remain some reservations after such a spectacular accident,” said Landschap.
Billy arrived in Belgium two weeks ago, apparently from the Den Bosch area in the Netherlands, and travelled as far as Duffel, just north of Mechelen.
Welkom Wolf has now informed the Flemish authorities as well as its Dutch counterpart to let them know Billy now appears to be retracing his steps and heading north again. Den Bosch is some 54km from Turnhout in a straight line; a wolf can easily cover 80km in one night.